My literary agent Lucinda Halpern wrote a nice post on what to prepare for a conversation with an agent or publisher. She offers great advice on thinking beyond some of the obvious aspects like audience – though she also stresses the importance of being specific about your audience. She points out how it is important for nonfiction writers to identify “why this book and why now.” I think that is a very important question. I’m working on my next book and I actually changed course early last year because the timing was no longer right for the topic that I had been working on. She also points out the importance of knowing the book’s big reveal.

This is an opportunity to demonstrate your research of books in your category, and make the case for how yours fills a niche. It could be that your research or writing has tapped into something that is previously unknown or not commonly believed, or that you’re shedding light on a little-known story that deserves more attention.

The book world is pretty crowded and it is increasingly important to have a strong and counterintuitive framing.


Early into the pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Kearney, culled the opinions of 400+ senior-level executives from various industry sectors to identify the best response to the COVID-19 crisis. Five imperatives emerged from the survey that remain highly relevant as we think about the future of manufacturing:

  1. Rapid tailoring of manufacturing and supply systems to changing consumer behaviours
  2. Agile manufacturing and supply system set-ups enabled by advanced technologies
  3. Logistics coordination across and within global value chains
  4. Adoption of new ways of working and governing to increase manufacturing resilience
  5. Shared responsibility and collaboration among companies and authorities to address social and environmental challenges

These motivations will help drive the factory of the future. Manufacturers need transparency (into their own operations and the operations of their suppliers), tighter (and quicker) coordination with their supply chain, and the ability to more quickly evaluate data (and respond accordingly). Connected factories will facilitate each of these. Connected factories will provide a systematic way of collecting and sharing data throughout the entire supply chain in near real-time. Real-time information sharing across equipment and plants will also help automate decisions based on incoming information so there is an interactive element to connected factories, that feeds on itself. We aren’t there yet, but there are a number of ingredient technologies that are coming together now to push this transformation forward. 5G being one of the key ones. Drones. Autonomous vehicles. Cheap sensors. Analytics. They are all coming together in the years ahead.

The word “robot” first appears in Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots. It derives from an old Church Slavonic word, rabota, meaning “servitude” and the Czech robotiti meaning “drudgery” and robtnik meaning “forced labor. Matt Simon had a good guide to robots last year in Wired.

The first industrial robot was Unimate. It joined the assembly line at a GM plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey, in 1961

Katie Collins over at CNET offers a look at some of the robots set to make their virtual appearance at CES next week.


The NYSE’s plan to delist three Chinese telcos (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom) was on, then off, and now is looking to be back on again. The initial decision was driven by President Trump’s November 2020 executive order barring investment in “Communist Chinese military companies,” as well as the the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (HFCAA), which President Trump signed into law on December 18th, 2020. The HFCAA requires companies publicly listed on stock exchanges in the U.S. to declare they are not owned or controlled by any foreign government and requires companies to be delisted if the PCAOB is blocked from auditing financial reports from the company. Here’s the list of Non-SDN Communist Chinese Military Companies.

The move is intended to protect U.S. investors from poor corporate governance and a lack of transparency.  A side effect might restrict the ability of these companies to raise capital, though all are also listed in Hong Kong. A battle over access to capital is yet another direction the growing war with China will travel.

A secondary effect could also be that it helps Chinese-based exchanges become more influential in the global capital markets. Some of the largest companies in the world are based in China and many of them are listed in the U.S. If investors can only gain exposure to these companies through China exchanges, it could drive capital there and make them more influential on a global scale.



Big data is often discussed as being this radical alternative to the hypothetical and deductive approach. But in archaeology, it’s providing us with a better generalized model to test against, or to fit alongside, the really localized things we’re doing. That way we can better contextualize the type of micro-historical research that we both think is going to continue to be archeology’s bread and butter for a long time

This is Parker VanValkenburgh of Brown University discussing recent work to develop online databases that enabled researchers to better understand the forced resettlement of the Inca Empire in the 1570s by Spanish conquerors.

Here’s the full article.

In the final #techspansive episode of 2020, Ross Rubin and I recap the biggest stories of the year and look forward to 2021. We analyze the industry’s biggest tech stories, including:
—How tech and other industries will take the first steps toward the post-pandemic future
—How Google and Facebook will react to their government lawsuits as Apple faces developer protest.
—How the trade war between the U.S. and China may engulf new companies and geographies

You can find all #techspansive episodes wherever you find your podcasts including:


Vaccine Distribution has been abysmal. Governor Cuomo issued an executive order increasing penalties for disregard of vaccine prioritization. While it is perhaps well-intentioned, it is likely the wrong approach. At least right now, scarcity of vaccine supply doesn’t seem to be the problem. In Virginia, we’ve only distributed about 20 percent of the stock of vaccines that have been received. While there is a lot of concern about people getting the vaccine before it’s their turn, an opposite problem seems to exist right now: vaccine doses are set to expire before they can be administered.

Israel has already vaccinated 10 percent of its population. In the U.S., we’re close to 1 percent and we’ve only distributed about 32 percent of the vaccines that have been distributed.

Hat tip to Tyler Cowen on the VA stats.

At any instant, one side of the ball will be moving in the same direction as the air and the other side will be moving against the air. The side of the ball moving in the same direction as the air will have a region of air at higher velocity, and therefore less pressure (Bernoulli’s principle) than the opposite side, which is moving into the air and creating higher pressure. This results in a net force from the high-pressure side to the low pressure side that is known as the Magnus effect (after the German physicist Heinrich Gustav Magnus, who ran experiments on spinning cylinders to explain the unpredictable behavior of spinning artillery shells in 1852).

Joshua Sadlock has a nice overview of the mathematical equations involved in throwing and hitting a baseball. If only it was a simple as math.


Zeynep Tufekci has a great piece in the Atlantic about the COVID-19 mutation first documented in the United Kingdom. Like I her, I discounted the initial news because viruses mutate and there have been many “doomsaying headlines” in the last year related to virus mutation.

To understand the difference between exponential and linear risks, consider an example put forth by Adam Kucharski, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who focuses on mathematical analyses of infectious-disease outbreaks. Kucharski compares a 50 percent increase in virus lethality to a 50 percent increase in virus transmissibility. Take a virus reproduction rate of about 1.1 and an infection fatality risk of 0.8 percent and imagine 10,000 active infections—a plausible scenario for many European cities, as Kucharski notes. As things stand, with those numbers, we’d expect 129 deaths in a month. If the fatality rate increased by 50 percent, that would lead to 193 deaths. In contrast, a 50 percent increase in transmissibility would lead to a whopping 978 deaths in just one month—assuming, in both scenarios, a six-day infection-generation time.

The variant now being called B.1.1.7 is thought to be 50-70 percent more transmissible. I find myself in the unenviable place of wishing for just the regular, old-fashioned 2020-version of COVID-19 as we enter 2021.

As she notes, time is of the essence. Rapid vaccine dissemination is our silver bullet. We should prioritize the first dose.

A more contagious virus is an outsized risk for 2021.

Advice for battling Zoom fatigue from business psychologist Stuart Duff, a partner at Pearn Kandola

Mr Duff says that companies should try to make video meetings less structured, and that more time should be built in for allowing informal chit-chat. When it does come down to formal meetings by video, he helps his clients to be more assertive.

From the same BBC article, advice from business psychologist Jess Baker:

“Being prepared enables you to feel more confident,” she says. “Prepare for each call as you would for a meeting with your manager [in person]. Then make eye contact with the camera and regardless of how many people are on the call, just imagine it’s just one person that you are speaking directly to. This may feel silly to you at first but your audience will be impressed.”